When it was reported that Manchester United was bringing in Ralf Rangnick to serve as interim-interim manager for the rest of the 2021-22 season before moving upstairs to influence as a footballing puppeteer, the internet patted themselves on the back. Rangnick was the guy that football Twitter had anointed as the right solution for United.
A tactician first and foremost, Rangnick is/was thought to be a guy that could come in, give the team a distinct identity, and right the ship after it had hit another proverbial iceberg.
Of course, the plan hatched by United was generally supported by an echo chamber that prefers angry yelling from gaming chair pulpits on Youtube channels to solutions. However, with some extra context, the plan was doomed to at minimum have a very rocky start if not outright fail.
We cannot forget that the writing was on the wall for Ole Gunnar Solskjaer prior to the international break in the fall. Yet, Manchester United burned those two weeks and ran Ole out for one more embarrassment since Ole’s a damn professional and club legend who was going to go down with the ship hitting the proverbial iceberg full-throated singing ‘Glory Glory Man United’ unless forcibly removed from his station.
Michael Carrick was then trotted out for a two-match unbeaten stint as interim manager as United scrambled to bring in Ole’s actual temporary replacement they thought could save the cash cow that was a Champions League place. Rangnick would be announced on NOVEMBER 29, 2021, and United would play Arsenal not four days later as well as three more matches inside a two-week span. The club was destined to play even more matches as the holiday period approached but a COVID outbreak in the club forced postponements.
The club has played seven matches under Rangnick and has just suffered its first loss under his tenure to Wolves on January 3. Yet, the team has looked quite unconvincing in most of its wins and draws.
There’s a lot that goes into why the results have looked that way, but I’m less concerned with that part. This is a vibes analysis after all. I’ll let Suwaid and Pauly explain why United looks to be a proper mess.
My frustrations stem from the things surrounding the club.
There are reports that the dressing room is already lost with double-digit first-team players saying they are dissatisfied or wanting to outright leave the club. Others such as Luke Shaw are alluding to possible unrest in the dressing room because of certain individual personalities.
Some are questioning why United hasn’t magically looked better with the manager change despite the manager wishing to play a completely different style than the previous regime. The lack of squad refreshment whilst trying to find an ideal starting XI hasn’t helped matters either.
Now a narrative is starting that players aren’t performing for the manager because he has a widely-known expiration date. Perhaps, Rangnick should have never been brought in as interim-interim manager and should’ve moved right to his consulting role to find the permanent manager that would implement his philosophy.
Either way, this is the situation we are now in, and, from the outside, looking in, the vibes don’t seem great ~again~.
It’s January, the chance of improving on a second-place finish last season has long since passed, any trips to Europe next season are even slipping from view, and now people are questioning whether the plan that was supposed to right the failures of the last plan is now fubar.
If I fancied myself a conspiracy theorist, I would be convinced that this was actually the plan. Manchester United appears to shoot themselves in the foot with such consistent regularity on the footballing side that perhaps they are simply content with being the conversation. Sure, winning like Pep’s Manchester City or Klopp’s Liverpool would also vault Manchester United into the forefront of the conversation, but that’s really hard to do.
I’ll use a non-football-related analogy like me and my partners on The Busby Babe podcast so often like to do. You haven’t played an exceptional Call of Duty game since probably Sir Alex Ferguson’s final season at United. Yet, that video game series is still a top seller every year and still sucks up the oxygen of gaming conversation because it’s too big not to. Laurels have been rested on and better games have been released, but the publisher Activision has no reason to change things unless things get really bad.
Kind of feels like the state of Manchester United right now? Take it from me, a lifelong fan of a truly awful sporting franchise (the Jacksonville Jaguars), the situation at Manchester United may seem bad but it isn’t that bad. Fans of a certain age have only known privilege, have only known success. Things haven’t actually gotten hard yet. This is what builds character. This is what makes the successes — if they ever come back — that much sweeter.
Sure, the team is frustrating to watch, and it’s easy to see that the team has trended back towards mediocrity this season but nothing cataclysmic enough has occurred to cause real change. The team also has plenty of time to scrape together the semblance of an identity, play the way Rangnick wants, and earn some kind of European football.
But I fail to see how the real systemic change will come by any way other than serendipity or calamity. Instead, we’ll be able to recycle this piece in two to three years as we’ve down.
So while you’re calling the players jerks and primadonnas, and calling the Glazers knobheads, and questioning whether or not Rangnick is the right man despite him being set up to fail before he stepped in Carrington, I suggest you also take some time to gear up for another year of listening to the one true banger: the Europa League Anthem.